Power in the Pen: 5 of the Best TV Shows Written and Created by Black Women

Black women have been responsible for creating celebrated TV shows from ‘Abbott Elementary’ to ‘Shondaland.’

Elizabeth Randolph - Author

Mar. 29 2024, Published 10:13 a.m. ET

'Grey's Anatomy' cast
Source: ABC

The end of Women’s History Month 2024 may be near, but many women anticipate making history long after it’s over, much like they’ve done for years. That’s because it’s never too late (or too early for the youngins reading this) to craft the life you want.

Fortunately, several women’s dreams have inspired countless people they will never meet. They will only know the dynamic fictional characters they created in scripted television.

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The genre that is in many ways still predominately geared towards white male writers and executives has been overshadowed by ultra-talented Black female writers who made several networks plenty of dough.

Let’s take a moment and send flowers to the top 5 scripted TV shows created by Black women.

5.’Abbott Elementary’

'Abbott Elementary' cast at the SAG Awards
Source: Getty Images

Abbott Elementary is arguably one of the best shows on TV in 2024. The show about teachers and staff in a Philadelphia school has been a binge-worthy gem since it debuted in December 2021. And it’s all thanks to its creator, executive producer, co-writer, and star, Quinta Brunson. Quinta, who gained fame in the early 2010s with her “He got moneeey” video, created Abbott and took inspiration from her sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Joyce Abbott.

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In addition to creating the show, Quinta stars as everyone’s “glass half full” teacher, Janine Teagues. She has two Lead Actress Emmys for playing Janine and her other two Emmys for writing Abbott.

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4. ‘Insecure’

'Insecure' cast at an event

In 2016, Issa Rae’s comedic series Insecure debuted on HBO, sparking an influx of fans and years of social media discourse (we all know where we were during the Season 1 finale). Insecure was Issa’s first TV project after her successful web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. The Barbie actor played the lead character, Issa Dee, who always kept fans questioning her decisions.

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Though it ended in 2021 after five seasons, Insecure remains a part of Black culture. Many of its scenes have become meme gold, and we still don’t know if Issa made the best choice in a partner by the end of the series. Nonetheless, fans have continuously begged Issa to bring the show back or make an Insecure movie, though she’s confirmed she’s not doing either.

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3. ‘Living Single’

(l-r): Yvette Lee Bowser and the cast of 'Living Single'
Source: Getty Images

In a “2020s kinda world,” I’m so glad to still have the Living Single girls! Well, via streaming old episodes, but you get the gist. Living Single is the brainchild of writer Yvette Lee Bowser. When the show debuted on Aug. 22, 1993, Yvette wrote for another classic, A Different World, before becoming the first Black woman to have a series air on primetime.

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Though Living Single’s cast — Queen Latifah, Erika Alexander, Kim Fields, Kim Coles, John Henton, and T.C. Carson — as well as Yvette herself has said the sitcom didn’t receive the respect it deserved in the industry, it was far from the case in the Black community. The show’s fandom has only increased with time, and many of us are still keeping our fingers crossed for a reunion in any form!

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2. ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

Shonda Rhimes with several 'Grey's Anatomy' cast members and writers
Source: Getty Images

Grey’s Anatomy’s 20-plus-year run is a testament to Shonda Rhimes’ brilliance. Shonda wrote and created Grey’s after being on maternity leave with her first “tiny human,” her daughter Harper. Her first show became a monumental success and has become a staple in millions of homes. Grey’s also helped Shonda launch her studio, Shondaland, which, at one point, dominated Thursday night TV. As a stan, I’d also love to add that Grey’s has successfully outrun both of its spinoffs, Private Practice and Station 19.

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(l-r): Mara Brock Akil with the 'Girlfriends' cast
Source: Getty Images

The number-one spot on this list goes to, in my opinion, the best show about grown women's friendships: Girlfriends. Girlfriends was created by Mara Brock Akil, who gained attention for her work as a writer on Moesha and The Parkers.

Girlfriends’ one-liners like “Oh Hell No!” and Toni Childs (Jill Marie Jones) never getting her “friend” Maya’s (Golden Brooks) son’s name, Jabari right, still live on through streaming, despite getting abruptly canceled by CW in 2007.

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Like many of the shows on our list, fans want the closure for the characters — Maya, Toni, Joan (Tracee Ellis Ross), Lynn (Persia White), and William (Reggie Hayes) — that we were robbed of in the early aughts.

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Honorable mention: ‘Scandal’

'Scandal' cast with Shonda Rhimes
Source: Getty Images

Shonda, girl, you’ve done it again! Please don’t take it lightly when I say watching Scandal live was a genuine “you had to be there moment.” Olivia Pope (Ketty Washington) and Associates had us tuned in week after week, wondering how much we would lose faith in humanity. And who could forget the love story that was #Olitz between Olivia and President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn)? Scandal is also responsible for Black Twitter’s rise, as the show was the first to trend on the app every week.

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Shonda went on to create other monumental shows. (Ever heard of a little one called Bridgerton?). However, Scandal will forever remain a classic, with many quotables, and Papa Pope (Joe Morton) reads to last a lifetime.

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